10 of the Best Language Learning Apps
Moving abroad can be a challenging, not to mention life-changing endeavour, and it probably goes without saying that the more prepared you are the better. But with so many things to think about – from applying for the correct visas, to sorting out expat health insurance – trying to learn a language on top of everything else can fall by the wayside.
While many countries are navigable with a combination of English and key local phrases, for expats living abroad it is important to really get to grips with the local language in order to make the most out of their time in a new country.
Around 20% of the world’s population speak English, but while it is widely spoken, only 360 million people use it as their first language. This means that the level of understanding can vary greatly, and English speakers should make a concerted effort to learn a new language when moving abroad.
The US Foreign Service Institute estimates that basic fluency can take between 480 and 720 hours depending on the complexity of the language, meaning months of daily practice. This could be disheartening with just a book, but by using these apps and tools expats will be able to master the native tongue of their new country far quicker and find the process enjoyable.
Language learning apps to help you achieve fluency
Founded by Steve Kaufmann, and his son Mark, in 2007, LingQ helps you learn new languages through authentic content in a simple yet effective way. LingQ allows you to choose from thousands of hours of audio along with matching transcripts. If the library doesn’t have content you’re looking for in your target language, LingQ allows you to import content from YouTube, blogs, news sites, and Netflix.
LingQ also saves you hundreds of hours by allowing you to easily look up new words and phrases, which you can review anytime. Possibly one of the most fun and sociable aspects of LingQ is the thriving online community, where you can join live conversations, have your writing corrected, get help from personal tutors, and make friends.
Possibly the most famous language app out there, Duolingo has become the go-to option for people of all abilities looking to learn a new language or refresh their skills. The simple gamification will help users to habitually return to the app. Engaging with a new language on a daily basis will help users to learn rapidly without it feeling like a chore.
Busuu offers a wide range of courses and lessons on certain topics beyond the basics. The thing that makes this app stand out from the crowd is how it engages native speakers. Users are rewarded for being ‘teachers’, correcting content created by students and even having conversations in real time.
Learning is always easier when it is fun. Memrise combines standard language courses with more unusual and entertaining collections. By focusing heavily on gamification, the creation of memes helps users to learn by repetition and exploring the efforts of the community.
A great way to get to grips with a new language is to hear the language being spoken. However, simply listening to an audiobook could be confusing or difficult to keep up with if you’re distracted. That is where apps like Beelinguapp come in.
While listening to your audiobook, the text will appear on your screen in both the native language and your own. Seeing and hearing at the same time will help you to familiarize yourself with pronunciations and challenging words.
It may seem like a strange suggestion at first, but watching television in a foreign language is a popular method of building comprehension after you have understood the basic phrases. The most important thing is to resist the temptation to watch with subtitles in your own language, instead watch with either foreign language subtitles and audio to make it easier to relate the words you are used to reading with the correct pronunciation.
Learning a new language via Netflix is made all the more easier thanks to LingQ’s import feature, which allows you to import your favourite Netflix shows and create interactive lessons. LingQ will import the dialogue while you watch, and enable you to save new words and phrases, look up definitions, and expand your vocabulary – things you can’t do with Netflix alone.
Taking a slightly different approach to learning, Anki is a spaced repetition learning software. Put simply, SRS is a digital version of flashcards, with words appearing at different intervals depending on their difficulty. You can either create your own deck or download other user-generated sets for certain languages or scenarios.
Also, Anki allows you to import your saved vocabulary from LingQ. As mentioned earlier, when you read through content on LingQ, new words can be saved and stored into LingQ’s vocabulary library. You can then review them in LingQ or export them to Anki if you wish.
Taking the flashcard method in a slightly different direction, FluentU focuses on video content, from news to music trailers, so it can be used as a learning tool. This is done with interactive captions to allow you to listen again, view definitions or find further examples of the vocab you are learning.
HiNative aims to be a Q&A community allowing learners and native speakers to work together to answer questions. This can range from help with pronunciations to advice on regional dialects, or even questions about cultural differences.
While it might not teach you with exercises, Google Translate is an incredibly versatile tool to have at hand if you are struggling on the spot with a specific word or phrase. The app will translate text or speech into your target language and can even speak the translated version out loud, which could be very helpful if you reach the limits of your ability mid-conversation.
The Google Translate app also includes an augmented reality feature which can translate words you point the camera at in real time, great for menus, street signs and maps.
On a related note, LingQ also uses Google Translate as the default translation tool for both words and phrases. This is because Google Translate is one of the best free tools available, as it can help translate words and phrases accurately, even though they are auto-generated.
There is no one method for learning a language that will work with everyone, but from visual learners to those who prefer to challenge themselves with conversations, there is certainly an app or tool that will suit you.
However you prefer to learn, the key to mastering a new language is to use it everyday and continue to challenge yourself. All of these methods will help you to become fluent in no time as you will be encouraged to learn everyday by making the process entertaining and fun.